Burke: Capping the COVID-19 conundrum


COVID is raging through the NFL, NBA and NHL and it won’t be the least bit shocking to see college football teams affected by the illness for their bowl games. It is hard enough as bettors and handicappers to break down a game, get a good line and also watch the newswire for injuries and other happenings.

Now, we’re getting a ton of COVID news. Players are in and out. Tests are positives and false positives. Protocols are what they are and games are being postponed or leaving teams with short, limited rosters.

How do we handle this as bettors? The truth is that I’m not sure. This is an unprecedented situation. We’ve seen flu outbreaks roll through teams for as long as all of us have been betting, but players play through that and we’ve never seen the enhanced protocols and the quarantining and all of that. We dealt with a lot of this last season, and it was new back then, but all of these situations are different, even with the new, updated protocols.

There are a lot of people that apply what I call the “Superstar Subtraction Theory” to a game, which means that teams that lose a key player get a little bit more production and effort from everybody else. The problem in the NFL, and likely CFB, is that whole position groups are affected. Multiple players on multiple teams in the NBA and NHL have been testing positive or deemed close contacts, so it isn’t just a case of one superstar going out.

Theoretically, there should be betting value in a volatile, high-variance environment such as this. Insiders are finding out news quickly and manipulating lines before the cases become public. Books are circling games and lowering limits so as not to get exposed by being too quick to adjust. But, we’ve also had players scratched right before games or even after warmups because test results filter in.

My suggestion is PYB: Protect Your Bankroll. Getting the best of the number is important, but not as important as not taking the worst of the number because a star player gets sidelined after you hit submit. It’s better to have most of the information than some of the information. If a game looks fishy or has the potential for news, especially teams like the Browns and Rams, who could very well add more cases today or tomorrow, just stay away.

COVID will slow down and eventually leave us with a degree of normalcy in the markets. Maybe it’s best to save your money until then, rather than playing pregame Russian Roulette with your bets.